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Is The Church Really In Matthew Chapter 24?

The article in the latest issue of Zion's Fire (Nov./Dec. 1994, Vol. 5, Num. 6), "Is the Church in Matthew Chapter 24?" is very readable and certainly a difficult, if not a controversial subject. I have to agree with the article that the Church is indeed in Matthew 24, as it is meant here. However, I don't think one can argue for the Church as the body of Christ from Matthew 24 only. I Believe the body of Christ is in Matthew 24, however, can only be proven retroactively. The argument is as difficult as trying to disprove the present relevance of speaking in tongues by using the book of Acts only. This is true because the old testament, the gospels and the book of Acts are mostly historical and not theological. I'll show you what I mean.

The difficulty is still further compounded by all the different dispensational views. Many traditional dispensationalists argue the church began at Pentecost early in the book of Acts (Acts 2:1-21). Most of the moderate ultradispensationalists insist the chruch as we know it began with Paul's conversion on the road to Damascus well into the book of Acts (Acts 9:1-9), just after the stoning of Stephen and the rejection of the Gospel by the Sanhedrin (Acts 7:51-60). Perhaps the best argued view of the so-called extreme ultradispensationalists reason that the true church, as the body of Christ, could have only began with the complete rejection of the Gospel by the nation of Israel at the end of the book of Acts (Acts 28:24-29).

When Jesus said , "...and upon this Rock (Petra, i.e., Himself; not Petros, Peter) I will build My Church...." (Matt. 16:18 NASB) is where we see clearly that Christ is to be the only foundation for this church (Matt. 7:24-27). The foundation is laid in the Gospels when He " lays down" His life for our full atonement and the redemption of the world (Matt. 13:44). In Acts we find the building upon the Foundation beginning with the nation of Israel as promised in the Old Testament, whereas the Gentiles were to be blessed through a nation of priests, Israel, washed (baptized) as a sign of her repentance and calling. Except for a few thousand, Israel failed in her promised calling. God even turns to the Gentiles to provoke her to jealousy and repentance (Acts 11:1-18; Rom. 10:16-21). Yet, here we still don't find God's great mystery, the body of Christ (Eph. 5:32).

A great confusion and controversy has arisen due to a simple lack of discernment in distinquishing when the church really began? Because of a misunderstanding between "the church age" and "the dispensation of grace" dispensationalists have divided camps and argued amongst themselves since the 1830's. The church age simply began with the building of the church itself upon the only Foundation. The dispensation of grace began with the transformation of this church, as the body of Christ at the end of the book of Acts (Acts 28:25-29), and revealed in the Pauline prison epistles, especially Ephesians, and only hinted at in Romans 16:25 (this salutation, thought by some scholars, to possibly have been added on here at a later date, probably by Paul, after the revelation in the Ephesians epistle). Jews and Gentiles, in Christ, are now together, "joint- heirs" as one body (Eph. 3:1-6).

So I believe the church as the body of Christ is indeed in Matthew chapter 24. However, as a sound case, this truth can only be argued for retroactively primarily from the Pauline epistles due to their theological relevance to this dispensation of grace.

We thus find all dispensationalists have some of the truth as to the beginnings of the church (age) and the beginning of the dispensation of grace to be expressed through the transformed church, the body of Christ. Let us not be too harsh with the extreme ultradispensationalists (e.g., E. W. Bullinger) or we may find ourselves throwing out the baby with the bath water. The dross must first be removed to fully appreciate the purity of the gold.

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